Game Review: The End Of The World
Your decisions in this short mobile game will determine how a man deals with a breakup as he wanders aimlessly around a city getting lost in memories that are triggered by his location. Can he come back from depression and eventually find peace or is he doomed to despair and an eventual mental breakdown?
Above: The End Of The World in the present. Roll over the image to see the past.
The End Of The World
is a side scrolling ambient exploration game for Android
(free) and iOS
(GB£0.99) that depicts a man dealing (or not dealing) with a breakup. He does so by trying to exist in the present, which grows bleaker and bleaker for him as he sinks into depression, while he reminisces about the past.
You control the man as he attempts to make it through a series of days. While doing so he tries to deal with the breakup but his world becomes more and more decimated as he goes into a mental-health spiral. You help him wander through a city (specifically Newcastle, England, although it's not mentioned in the game) where there are places that he can visit that will trigger intrusive thoughts about his past relationship.
The End Of The World
features a clever mechanic, depicted via a clock that you can press, to allow you to turn back time, which gives you insight into the relationship, including reasons why it may not have worked out (you'll note, for example, where the man's attention is often focussed in the past).
By pressing and holding the clock the screen will fade into the past and show the exact same location in happier times as the man remembers moments from the relationship. Depending on where you are, you may also get the chance to activate a short scene from the past that depicts a particularly noteworthy event although, since this is an art game, it's quite possible that they are wish fulfilment daydreams rather than actual memories.
I quite liked experimenting within the constraints of what's available in the game to see what would happen, although I would have liked to have had a few more locations to explore. The game is very short - it takes 10 to 20 minutes to play - but it has multiple endings (three that I could find) that increase the replayability.
The art style is slightly abstract in places, especially in depicting the world as broken although, of course, it is the man that is broken and not the world. The game uses colour effectively to represent the depressing present, which is depicted using muted blues, greens, and yellows, and the happy past, which is represented with slightly more vibrant oranges and reds. The colour design is quite clever, as you'll discover as you try to find the different endings, as the combinations can also represent safety and tranquility (which is usually represented with peaceful blues and greens) or danger and destruction (which is usually represented with energetic reds and oranges).
The game was created by Sean Wenham, with help from Arran Seaton (music) and Viesturs Marnauza (sound). The music and soundscape complement the art style beautifully in helping to convey both the bleak present and a past that was filled with hope and delight. The music, in particular, fades between superb pieces that embody the two emotional states.
(Wenham has since joined a collective called TuoMuseo
, which builds digital games and experiences for museums, and the apps and games the collective has been developing include his signature visual aesthetic, an expanded interaction system, and the time switching mechanic to bring museums in Italy to life. You can find them in the App store or Google Play by searching for the developer TuoMuseo.)
Much of what is presented in The End Of The World
, especially what happens in the endings, is open for interpretation and will likely depend on the player's life experiences and knowledge. The abstract (yet literal) way that his life falls apart will also alienate some gamers who aren't used to having art mixed in with their games but I thought it beautifully depicted his inner turmoil and emotional and mental breakdown.
My only other complaint is a technical one: the game doesn't save your progress so you have to be ready to sit down for a full gaming session or you'll have to start from scratch again (and the walking, while crucial to building your connection to the character's depression, as well as being necessary for exploring the world, does get tedious after you've played more than once). Plus, if you happen to touch the back button on an Android
device by accident while you are playing (I have done this more than once) it will kick you out of the game and you will have to start again.
On the whole, however, this is a thought provoking game with a heart-wrenching tale that anyone who's experienced the end of a relationship - whether because of a breakup or even due to the death of a friend of family member - can relate to.
The End Of The World: Official Site
Download: App Store (iOS)
, Google Play Store (Android)
Sean Wenham: Twitter
Arran Seaton: Official Site
Viesturs Marnauza: Official Site
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